In 2013, the Detroit Free Press reported that a man, who was devastated by the loss of his father, took the body from the cemetery and attempted to revive him.
As life often inspires art, the heartbreaking situation sparked an idea for filmmaker and author Booker T. Mattison, the second-ever winner of EBONY.com and kweli tv’s “Color TV” contest. This leg of the contest, which originated in May 2016, required creators to focus on the sci-fi theme and Mattison beat out creators from all across the country and beyond with Habeas Corpus .
Starring a few familiar (and impressive) faces such as, Chad L. Coleman (The Wire, The Walking Dead); Tim Reid (Sister, Sister and Treme,); and Jamie Hector (The Wire), is a tale that explores ideas of faith and miracles.
EBONY.com spoke to Mattison about the intent behind Habeas Corpus, the realities of dealing with loss and why magical realism was the ideal genre to tell this story.
EBONY: What message were you hoping to get across when writing and directing Habeas Corpus?
Booker T. Mattison: My purpose in making the film was to showcase the fact that, those people who do pray or have a faith belief, God often shows up and answers our prayers, but in ways that we could never anticipate. And it’s through this cauldron of disappointment, that oftentimes, we’re able to find meaning and purpose.
EBONY: As the filmmaker, what did you walk away with from this film?
BTM: I saw my grandmother die right in front me. She was 91. At some point, I’m going to have to deal with that again. The takeaway is that, although ‘Ray (Chad L. Coleman) makes a decision that some may feel is irrational, it’s through that irrationality that he also discovers what his father wanted to hand down to him, which he was reluctant to accept. He didn’t want to take the torch and take on the responsibility of manhood and continuing generations.
EBONY: Let’s talk about magical realism. What do you think it is about your style and this genre of storytelling that attracts the viewer?
BTM: Judging from the reaction of audiences, what makes that genre work is the fact that it’s something unreal, magical and fantastic that exists in this world but it is regarded as normal for those characters. So, interestingly enough, it’s a very polarizing film. I don’t spoon feed it to the audience, you do have to think. Also, oftentimes some audience members don’t expect to have to think when they come to the movies. So for me, to actually see people embrace that and to feel triumphant at the end is incredibly enlightening.
EBONY: The lily pad was interesting and brought forth a bit of foreshadowing. In Greek Mythology, the lily symbolizes various things such as birth, transitioning, renewal to name some. Why was this route chosen to foreshadow what was to come in the film?
BTM: The lily is representative of two things. There’s the literal meaning of lily. Ray meets Lily at a literal dark place in the beginning. Then he meets her in a figurative dark place at the end. So, the theme of the movie and the science-fiction elements is that the flower became flesh and that can happen in this world. At the same time, the lily of the valley is representative of Christ. What gave Him His power was the fact that He rose from the dead and conquered death. In doing so, he empowered the generations, which is in turn what Ray Sr.’s (Reid) desire was for his son.
EBONY: What other projects do you have in the works?
BTM: My latest short film, Bird was an official selection at the Urban Short Film Festival in New York, which is in September. Also, I’ll be showing the film and speaking at the University of Nebraska in November. I’m working to adapt my second novel into my first feature film. I’m also working on my third novel, “Friendship Village”, which is the story of a White rookie Virginia Beach officer who clashes with his partner, who also is White,when he shoots an unarmed Black teen. The aftermath tears the city apart and turns the cops against each other.
Watch “Habeas Corpus” now on kweliTV’s site, by subscribing right HERE. kweliTV subscriptions are free for the first 30 days. If you’re a content creator, enter the newly opened third round of the short-film competition by visiting www.ebony.com/colortv. This time, the theme is comedy. Submissions close on Sept. 31 at 11:59 p.m. CST.